Humiliation on the Bundesbahn

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The Independent Online
THE CHEQUERED history of Germany's new high-speed train reached a miserable climax yesterday with the announcement by Siemens that the engines in all of the 52 Inter City Expresses must be completely overhauled.

Just 16 months after the feted introduction of the Bundesbahn's 'train of the future', a spokesman for Siemens, which built the engines, admitted that they had 'not managed to overcome their teething troubles'.

The difficulties began as soon as the service was introduced with much pomp and ceremony in June last year. The inaugural run, from Munich to Hamburg, took far longer than the planned six hours because of regular breakdowns caused by problems with the electric engines and doors not closing properly. Passengers had to run the gauntlet of oddly performing 'super-flush toilets', as well as suffering warm beer and cold food because neither the high-tech cooling system nor the microwave ovens in the restaurant cars worked properly.

As a result, all 25 of the first batch of ICEs had to undergo emergency adjustments, in a blaze of humiliating publicity. Now, the Bundesbahn and Siemens find themselves with far greater embarrassments. There are 416 engines for the 52 expresses now in service, which, in the words of the manufacturer, are renowned for 'requiring little servicing'.

A Siemens spokesman declined to say how much the overhaul would cost, but admitted it would be 'substantial'. The work on each train will take three days.

The ICE was brought into service after 15 years of development. Each express costs DM50m ( pounds 20m).